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Two New Studies That Help Estimate Tax Revenue and Getting It Right with DUID

Posted on25. May, 2016 by .

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C1_8734_r_xTwo new studies helpful to those who are advocating for marijuana legalization came out over the past few weeks. One quantifies the enormous potential tax revenue generated from a legal marijuana system, which should encourage additional states to reconsider their marijuana policies; the second confirms that per se DUID laws are scientifically baseless, and concludes that no one should face conviction of a DUID charge without a showing of impairment.

Tax Revenue Left on the Table

The Tax Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, released a series of reports (on 4/20, no less) quantifying the potential state and federal tax revenue from a nationally legal marijuana market. Their conclusion: $ 28 billion annually!

That’s right. The states and the federal government are losing that much tax revenue annually as a result of their reticence to embrace a legal marijuana market. The states would raise an estimated $ 20.5 billion through the collection of excise, sales, income and payroll taxes. The federal government is losing another $ 7.5 billion from income, payroll, and excise taxes.

Tax experts reached figures from an estimate that a nationally legal marijuana market would generate $ 45 billion in annual sales. This is obviously relevant information for any elected officials who might be considering supporting marijuana legalization. We know from the experience with legal gambling in the US that initially only one state (Nevada) was willing to raise tax revenue by legalizing and regulating gambling, and then a second (New Jersey) elected to jump on board the gaming bandwagon. The other states knew this could be a helpful source of tax revenue, but so long as the issue was considered too controversial (or in some states, considered immoral conduct), they were unwilling to take advantage of the potential revenue stream.

But today, some form of gambling is available in almost every state. The aura of impropriety has gradually given way to the reality that people gamble regardless of whether it is legal and regulated or remains illegal. The primary difference is that with illegal gambling the government realizes no tax revenue.

That scenario is one that is almost certain to be repeated in state after state over the coming years, as marijuana smoking is increasingly seen as no big deal, and the enormous tax revenues are more and more crucial for states struggling to balance their budgets without cutting essential services. With every new state that adopts full legalization, there are a larger number of neighboring states that will be forced to reconsider their marijuana policies with a view towards keeping that tax revenue in their own states.

Fair DUID Policies

The second piece of good news came from the respected American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, a somewhat unexpected source. Following a thorough review of the scientific evidence, AAA concluded that motorists are being convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana based on arbitrary state standards – called “per se” laws — that have no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired.

Under these laws, if the driver is found to have a certain level of THC in their system, they are convicted of a DUID offense, without any showing of impairment.

Five states (Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington) presently impose per se limits for the detection of specific amounts of THC in blood, while eleven states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards — meaning any THC in the system is sufficient for a conviction. In Colorado the presence of more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood gives rise to a permissible inference that the driver was impaired.

The problem with these laws is that residual levels of THC may be present in the blood for extended periods of time (days or even weeks) after the last use of marijuana, although the impairment from smoking generally lasts no more than 90-minutes.

The AAA finding is similar to that of the US National Highway Safety Administration that has previously found “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

This study confirms the position that NORML has taken for years, arguing for impairment testing, rather than per se THC standards. As NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano has written, “[R]ecently adopted statewide per se limits and zero tolerant per se thresholds in the United States criminally prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle by persons with the trace presence of cannabinoids or cannabinoid metabolites in their blood or urine are not based upon scientific evidence or consensus … [T]he enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with other state statutes.”

Information is Power

Information is power, and both of these new reports provide us with tools to better shape the debate over the advantages of marijuana legalization, and to assure that new legalization laws do not unfairly treat responsible marijuana smokers as dangerous drivers. Now if we can get our elected officials to focus on the facts, we can continue to refine the image of fair marijuana legalization.

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This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Grassroots Support for NORML’s Congressional Lobby Day

Posted on23. May, 2016 by .

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Today marijuana activists, patients and business owners from around the country are gathering in our nation’s Capitol to officially kickoff NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby day in Washington DC. We’re extremely excited about our line up of speakers and panelists for our conference, followed by a busy day of meetings with members of the House and Senate.

To start off, NORML members and supporters will be meeting at George Washington University, for a full day of presentations and panel discussions with policy experts and seasoned lobbyists. I’m especially excited to hear from John Hudak with the Brookings Institute. He recently wrote an open letter to presidential candidates urging them to take the issue of marijuana law reform more seriously. You can read more, here!

Tomorrow morning, NORML members will gather at the Longworth building on Capitol Hill where they will be addressed by: Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Delbene (D-WA). They are expected to speak in detail about the various pieces of legislation that are highlighted below. With more than twenty pieces of federal legislation aimed at reforming America’s archaic marijuana and hemp laws, it is imperative that we do our part by educating them on the many benefits of embracing a new approach. The same applies to everyone who will not be able to attend, except the focus will be on making phone calls, writing letters and/or sending emails using our online action center.

To access the information below, simply click on any of the links and you’ll be directed to a three-page document that includes everything you and your fellow activists will need to assist us with our lobbying efforts (talking points, phone script, letter template etc.). Feel free to contact your representatives about each one, or pick a few that you’re most passionate about!

House:

H.R. 3561: The Fair Access to Education Act

H.R.1013: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

H.R.1538: The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

H.R.1940: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

Senate:

S. 2557: The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act

S. 2237: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

S.683 – Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act

During last year’s congressional letter writing campaign, our network of affiliates and chapters generated more than 2000 letters and emails to congressional offices so I hope we can do the same or better this year!

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NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Illinois Set to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

Posted on22. May, 2016 by .

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The Illinois House of Representatives voted Wednesday to remove criminal penalties for possession of a personal amount of marijuana in a vote of 64-50. The bill — SB 2228 — will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

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Sen. Heather Steans

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, represents a historic change in Illinois. Instead of arresting and jailing people in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, those found in possession would simply pay a fine of up to $ 200. Perhaps more importantly, people would not be stuck with harmful criminal records for the rest of their lives.

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Rep. Kelly Cassidy

This bill is a huge improvement over the current law, which is costly, harmful, and applied unequally around the state. In fact, well over 100 local communities have already lowered criminal penalties. In many respects, SB 2228 simply makes the law more consistent.

Once the governor officially receives the bill, he will have up to 60 days to sign it into law. It reflects changes he requested last year in an amendatory veto, so we are optimistic it will become law.

The post Illinois Set to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession appeared first on MPP Blog.


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Texas GOP Supports Medical Marijuana

Posted on20. May, 2016 by .

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Over the weekend in Dallas, the Republican Party of Texas convened for their state convention where, among other business, delegates adopted a platform to express their position on various political issues.

With support from 78% of delegates, the following is now the official position of the Texas GOP: “We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients.”TX GOP

Thanks to the work of dedicated Republican delegates who support marijuana law reform, the Texas GOP is now officially in support of medical marijuana!

Of course, this confirms what we already knew: Marijuana law reform is not a partisan issue. Texans of all political persuasions acknowledge that cannabis is medicine and support the reform of outdated policies. This move by Republican delegates affirms the integrity of the doctor/patient relationship by declaring that patients should have safe and legal access to medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it, consistent with another section of the platform which states, “Health care decisions…should be between a patient and health care professional and should be protected from government intrusion.”

While this new position does not change current state law, it does demonstrate that even the most conservative Texans agree: Cannabis should be accessible to patients.

The post Texas GOP Supports Medical Marijuana appeared first on MPP Blog.


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